Family: Police released woman while still drunk

December 16, 2011 2:49:27 PM PST
The family of a woman killed when she walked on to the Eisenhower Expressway in September has launched legal action.

Toxicology tests reveal Diana Paz, 25, was still drunk when she was released by the Illinois State Police. She had been charged earlier for DUI. It's a case where the duty of care owed to a person charged with a crime is at issue.

Somber members of the Paz family filed into their lawyer's office Friday to demand answers to what happened to 25-year-old in the early morning hours of September 2. They say Illinois State Police knew or ought to have known that she was drunk when she was let go after posting bond. Her state of mind caused her to make the irrational decision to go for a walk on a highway, the family says.

Toxicology tests show Diana Paz had a blood alcohol level nearly double the legal limit when the Illinois State Police let her go at 5:40 a.m. that Friday morning

"We're really hurt. I believe the state police, they're part of the law enforcement. They were suppose to serve and protect," Maria Paz, Diana's sister, said.

State troopers had booked the mother of a 5-year old on a DUI charge overnight for allegedly driving on the wrong side of the Eisenhower. In police videos taken at the Westchester police station, which like many local police forces lends interrogation rooms to the state police, an emotional Paz submits to a search and fingerprinting and, in a shot taken at 4:10 a.m., stumbles as if drunk. She refused a roadside breathalyzer test.

"We do know they made a mistake here. You do not release a 25-year old girl in the middle of the night while she is intoxicated," Tim Cavanagh, attorney, said.

Paz left the interrogation room at 5:30 a.m., and according to police reports, bonded out on an i-bond and left the station at 5:40 a.m.. She was dropped off as a courtesy at a nearby BP gas station by a trooper. The Eisenhower sits about a quarter of a mile away down an embankment and a half hour later Paz's lifeless body lay on it after being hit by a passing motorist

"I am pretty sure he misses his mother so much. I am sure he talks about her all the time and he misses her so much," said Maria Paz, speaking about her sister's son.

Illinois State Police say no policy governs the length of time a DUI suspect must be held after posting bond. The Cook County Medical Examiner's autopsy showed her blood alcohol level at .158. The day's legal maneuvers were about preserving those findings and associated evidence, including video from the BP station. The family is not suing, but their lawyer will likely zero in on whether the state police adhered to their own protocols in how they handled Paz.

"I will give the state police the benefit of the doubt?that they are going to produce all the documents and if they don't we're going to be in court," said Cavanagh.

The Illinois Attorney General's Office won't comment on what law may or may not be at play in the case because they would be defending the state police.

Chicago police say their protocols rely on discretion in whether to release a DUI.

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